Eye of the Storm

When vacation plans are made several months in advance, you have to expect a few bumps along the way. You don’t expect a Category 5 hurricane to hit your exact destination a week before your arrival.

In 2020, our 40th Wedding Anniversary vacation trip to DisneyWorld in Florida was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. When things returned to normal, our trip was rescheduled for October 2022. New dates were picked almost a year in advance. Our group of travelers expanded to include my son, his wife and two children, and his mother-in-law – or as we call ourselves – The Magnificent Seven. 

My daughter-in-law made a concerted effort organizing our group to ensure smooth sailing. She did a fantastic job with the airline and hotel reservations. Accommodating everyone’s complicated work/life schedule was not an easy task. Once the dates were solidified, the rest of our plans fell into place.

Excitement mounted as the departure date approached. Trying to keep the trip a secret from my two grandchildren, ages 6 and 7-1/2 proved to be harder than I thought. The adults made so many slip-ups that we substituted the word “Japan” for the words “Disney” and “Florida”  when we spoke about the our plans to keep from spoiling the surprise. 

As the departure date grew closer, we finalized our itinerary. While we were doing everything that needs to be done before a long vacation, a tropical depression was slowly forming in the southern Atlantic. As we pulled our luggage out of the attic in Stoneham, winds were swirling over the warm ocean waters. As we decided which clothes to bring and researched travel protocols, clouds gathered in a spiral dance and began a trip of their own. As we added Apps to our phones and became members of airline web sites, the ocean churned and winds picked up speed. Soon, Hurricane Ian, a Category 5 storm, made a beeline to Florida’s west coast, with a projected track straight to Orlando after destroying the vulnerable coast. We couldn’t do anything but watch and pray the storm would be over before we left Boston and headed south the following week.

To complicate matters further, my wife’s sister and her husband live in Englewood, Florida. The eye of the storm was barreling straight through their coastal town. It was terrifying to watch the news as the storm intensified. I can’t imagine what it was like for them, huddled in a closet with their cat, as a Category 5 hurricane howled at their door. 

For two long days we waited to hear from our family and tried to contact them via text and cell phone. The devastation in the hurricane’s path was horrific. After joining a Facebook Floridian community group and checking out satellite images of their neighborhood, we finally got a phone call that everyone was okay. My sister-in-law drove to one of the few bridges still intact on higher ground in order to get a cell phone signal. She and her husband are lucky to be alive.

And back in Stoneham, we are lucky we didn’t pick the same week as Ian to travel to Florida. My trip hasn’t been cancelled so far although I’m keeping an eye on messages from the airline’s app to make sure our flight is still scheduled to leave Boston on time. It’s Saturday Oct.1st as I write this. We are heading for Logan Airport Sunday morning at 5:00 a.m. to begin our family adventure to the Magic Kingdom. It’s going to take some real magic to make this trip happen. Wish me luck, and I’ll have some good tales to tell about my Florida excursion when I return. (I was going to say “if” I return but I don’t want to jinx myself.) Hopefully, “The Happiest Place On Earth” will live up to it’s name.

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